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Reps summon Dangote, Abdulsamad, others over soaring cement prices

The House of Representatives is set to invite top manufacturers Aliko Dangote, Rabiu Abdulsamad, among others, to appear before them for deliberation on ways out of the hardship arising from the high cost of the product.

The House resolution was a sequel to the adoption of a motion titled “Arbitrary increase in the price of cement by manufacturers of cement in Nigeria,” moved by a member representing Karu/Keffi/Kokona Federal Constituency, Nasarawa State, Mr Gaza Gbefwi, during plenary on Wednesday and a member representing Shomolu Federal Constituency, Lagos State, Ademorin Kuye.

Leading the debate at a session presided over by the Speaker, Abbas Tajudeen, Gbefwi argued that cement manufacturers have increased the price of their products by up to 50 per cent leading to sharp hikes in building blocks, the cost of building, and consequently, the price of rent across the country.

According to him, it is ironic that while the raw materials for the manufacturing of cement, including lime, silica, alumina, iron oxide, and gypsum, are all sourced locally and not affected by exchange rate volatility, the price of cement continues to rise almost every week.

Gbefwi also noted that the factors of production and elements of the cement production flow chart “Are sourced locally and have not changed significantly year-on-year,” stressing that “Cement manufacturers are capitalizing on exchange volatility to arbitrarily increase the price of the product, whose cost of production has not changed significantly since last year.”

According to him, a small but powerful “cement cabal” is unconscionably inflicting hardship on Nigerians “as the prices of rent and associated services have increased.

In his contribution, member representing Kanke/Pankshin/Kanam Federal Constituency, Plateau State, Yusuf Gagdi wondered why Nigerians are being subjected to untold hardship by cement manufacturers, adding that “Nigeria cements are a big market for Niger Republic, Cameroon and other neighbouring countries.”

He said, “Why should Nigerians continue to suffer from incessant increases in the price of cement? We have a duty to rise up and defend the common man. I think it is important we invite the manufacturers to tell this house what is going on because we can’t continue like this.”

On his part, the Deputy Minority Whip of the House, George Ozodinobi, called for the mass importation of cement into the country to force down the price.

The lawmaker who represents Njikoka/Dunukofia/Anaocha Federal Constituency, Anambra State, said, “Let us open the floodgate of importation of cement into the country. This will bring down the price of the product.”

Ozodinobi also recalled that when cement importation was the norm, the price was stable and affordable.

“When the man from Nnewi and Chairman of the Ibeto Group, Cletus Ibeto, was given the opportunity to bring in cement into the country, the price came down drastically but he was frustrated out of the system,” he lamented.

However, the duo of Sada Soli (APC, Katsina) and Babajimi Benson (APC, Lagos) called for caution, arguing that a number of factors come into play in determining the price of a product.

According to Jimi, “It is either the frequent increment is caused by production cost or something else. Let us invite the manufacturers to meet with the relevant committees.”

Similarly, Soli urged the lawmakers to remember that Nigeria has become a net exporter of cement to other African countries and as such, manufacturers should be supported to hold on to their market lead.

“Let us understand the place of cost of production. These people bought these companies and turned them around. In most cases, they provide their own power. Let us not be complacent when we are talking about issues concerning the national economy. Let us support these people because they can withdraw their investments,” he stated.

Following the adoption of the motion, the House summoned the manufacturers to appear before it in the next sectoral debate, just as it mandated its Committees on Solid Minerals Development, Commerce, Industry, and Special Duties to investigate the arbitrary increase in the price of cement by manufacturers in the country and report back within four weeks for further legislative action.

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